In a show where almost everybody flashes two faces or more, David Cromwell stands out as the most cunningly camouflaged performer in The Scarlet Pimpernel. There are four of him, but try to find 'em:
He warms up by roiling about for four minutes in the opening number as an unruly mob member, and he wraps it all up at the end with a minute-long fillip as a lucky fisherman ("that Camelot spot," he calls it). In between, he impersonates two of the period's most imposing personages France's Robespierre (three minutes) and England's Prince of Wales (15 minutes). Talk about A Tale of Two Cities! In two hours and 45 minutes of show, all of that comes out to 23 superbly spent minutes.
"Robespierre's my favorite," he says. "He's the most elusive. What I do is play him for laughs. That's the kind of amazing decision we all made when we realized, early on, we weren't doing Les Miz. We realized we're doing a comedy adventure, and it turned into pretty much of a delight."
Cromwell who achieved his comic regality by "doing 65 plays in a couple of years at Ithaca College and playing Shakespearean clowns at The Folger" doesn't count himself a Broadway musical-comedy type he sorta fell upward into that success. They had to argue him into becoming George Rose's replacement in Drood and Nick Ullett's in Me and My Girl. Then there was that little frolic that brought him to Broadway in the first place: A History of the American Film. He essayed -- roll over, Robespierre -- 11 roles in that one. "I went from Abdhul the mad Turk to Pa Joad in 20 seconds. One time I turned around as Pa Joad and was still wearing Abdhul's earring."